Federal data shows difference in wait times between Minnesota and ND when filing for unemployment

Valley News Live investigated which state took the longest to hand out unemployment benefits
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 6:45 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - It’s a tale of two states. Depending if you live in North Dakota or Minnesota, you may have waited longer to start receiving unemployment benefits.

As part of a Valley News Live investigation, we obtained federal data showing one state gave out checks to first time applicants at a quicker pace, while another had a greater number of people waiting longer.

When states across the country went into lockdown, millions applied for unemployment benefits.

This overwhelmed state unemployment offices that now had to deal with a record number of filings.

Minnesota was one state that struggled to get it’s footing, but data from the U.S Department of Labor showed it did a better job than other states.

Last year from March to July, nearly 8,200 Minnesotans waited between eight to 49 days before receiving their first unemployment check. This year during the same time frame and amid a pandemic, the figure was 3,500.

We asked Commissioner Steve Grove of the Department of Employment and Economic Development how his agency was able to process a record number of filings so quickly.

“Compared to most states, we do have a more modern unemployment insurance system,” Grove said. “We’ve really invested in the technology in our system, which has allowed us to process payments more quickly without people having to handle them directly themselves.”

From a percentage perspective, Minnesota was the only state with a decrease in 2020 compared to 2019 when it came to people getting their first unemployment checks in that eight to 49 day window, according to federal data. It was a 57 percent decline.

“The way we set up our systems, we could add servers remotely with the touch of a button to handle the loads. We didn’t have to wheel in hardware or anything like that or create new systems,” Grove said.

Minnesota has processed 950,000 unemployment claims, according to the commissioner.

North Dakota, on the other hand, saw the biggest percentage increase during that time frame.

Last year from March to July, 212 people waited between eight to 49 days before receiving their first unemployment check. In 2020 during the same time frame amid a pandemic, the figure was 20,228. That’s a 9442 percent increase in the number of people having to wait for payment.

Job Service North Dakota said it had five years worth of regular claims filed in five months. It paid out $76 million last year compared to $776 million so far this year.

The agency added that it has received awards in years past for how quickly it distributed payments.

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